Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

NASA robotic explorer crashes into moon as planned

NASA's robotic moon explorer, LADEE, is no more.

Flight controllers confirmed that the orbiting spacecraft crashed into the back side of the moon Friday as planned, avoiding the precious historic artifacts left behind by moonwalkers.

LADEE's annihilation occurred just three days after it survived a full lunar eclipse, something it was never designed to do.

Researchers believe LADEE probably vaporized when it hit because of its extreme orbiting speed of 3,600 mph, possibly smacking into a mountain or the side of a crater. No debris would have been left behind.

By Thursday evening, the spacecraft had been skimming the lunar surface at an incredibly low altitude of 300 feet. Its orbit had been lowered on purpose last week to ensure a crash by Monday following an extraordinarily successful science mission.

LADEE — short for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer — was launched in September from Virginia. From the outset, NASA planned to crash the spacecraft into the back side of the moon, far from the Apollo artifacts from the moonwalking days of 1969 to 1972.

The last thing the LADEE team wanted was "to plow into any of the historic sites," said project manager Butler Hine.

LADEE completed its primary 100-day science mission last month and was on overtime. The extension had LADEE flying during Tuesday morning's lunar eclipse; its instruments were not designed to endure such prolonged darkness and cold.

But the small spacecraft — about the size of a vending machine — survived with just a couple of pressure sensors acting up.

The mood in the control center at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., was upbeat late Thursday afternoon, according to Hine.

"Having flown through the eclipse and survived, the team is actually feeling very good," Hine told the Associated Press in a phone interview.

But the uncertainty of the timing of LADEE's demise had the flight controllers "on edge," he said. As it turns out, LADEE succumbed within several hours of Hine's comments.

NASA robotic explorer crashes into moon as planned 04/18/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 18, 2014 8:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91

    Obituaries

    Jerry Lewis, who teamed with Dean Martin in the '50s before starring in The Nutty Professor and later founding the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon has died at 91 at his home in Las Vegas, according to his publicist.

    More to come.

  2. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years

    Nation

    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501
  3. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike

    Accidents

    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.

  4. No bond for suspect in Kissimmee officers' fatal shooting

    Crime

    KISSIMMEE — A suspect in the fatal shooting of two police officers in Florida will be staying in jail after a judge denied him bond Sunday, saying there was probable cause for his first-degree murder charge

    Officers Matthew Baxter, left, and Sam Howard, right, who were both shot and killed in Kissimmee, Florida, on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. [Kissimmee Police]
  5. Tampa police arrest 22-year-old man in July murder

    Crime

    TAMPA — Police arrested Sunday a 22-year-old man who detectives said shot and killed a Tampa man after an argument.

    Tampa police arrested Dejonta Felder, 22, in the murder of 32-year-old Julius R. Carter. [Tampa Police Department]